Jesus is Our Righteousness

“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Romans 4:3

It took me a long time to embrace the fact that Jesus is my righteousness. I knew that when I got saved that Jesus washed away my sin and that I was a new creature in Christ. What I didn’t understand is the distinction between my spirit man being saved yet with my soul still in need of transformation. Some things left me immediately, like suddenly, cursing was no longer a part of my vocabulary! But other things, like controlling my anger, bad habits like smoking (I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years!) and other things that needed to be changed in me were a process. So internally, I struggled. I was saved, but there were (are…) still things in my behavior and character that weren’t consistent with who I knew I was and how I knew I should behave.

When we’re out of balance like this, our human nature kicks in to compensate and we begin a cycle that God never intended for us to practice or live. The first thing we find ourselves doing is trying to balance the scale with good deeds. We see this in Matthew Chapter 23 when Jesus describes the excessive things the Pharisees did to prove their righteousness. They presented themselves as holy and righteous in their dress and public prayers, gave generously to the poor and tithed not just monetarily but even on their harvest of spices and herbs. By outward appearances they would be hard to beat but Jesus was not impressed. Their righteousness was as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and yet He said that our righteousness would have to exceed theirs just to enter in to heaven… (Matthew 5:20)

Another way we try to balance the scale is by comparing our righteousness and good deeds to the works and walk of others. This is self-righteousness and I’ve found that for the most part, it’s not whether or not you are self-righteous, but rather to what degree are you self-righteous…? It’s easy to identify self-righteousness in others. Those are the people that always have to be right, they brag about what they do or would or would not do, they’re holier-than-thou, can do no wrong and outwardly, judge, scrutinize and criticize everyone else. But inwardly, to some degree, we all compare ourselves to others when we fall short (e.g., “Well, at least I don’t…”). It helps us feel better about ourselves and eases the guilt and shame of our shortcomings.

The truth is, we will never truly appreciate the precious gift of Righteousness given to us through salvation until we stop comparing ourselves to others and start comparing ourselves to Christ… He is the only standard by which we can judge our righteousness and we will fall short every time! That realization produces the humility that draws us near to His heart. Only in comparing ourselves to the Righteous standard of Christ can we rightfully assess where we are and where we need Him to help us grow. We can always find someone that we’re “better than” in a particular area, but justification never initiates transformation!

When we allow the honest self-reflection that can only come from comparing our lives and our behavior to Christ, we go from trying to “be right” to simply wanting to “do right”. We no longer have to “be right” because He is our Righteousness! In spite of ourselves, He has imparted a precious gift that cannot be attained by obedience to any law or by any deeds of our own and cannot be appreciated until we learn to judge ourselves by His righteous standard. Let us release the urge to “be right” and pray for the grace to “do right”.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  Philippians 1:6

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Jesus is Our HOPE!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Proverbs 29:18 KJV

A month ago while doing research for this blog, I stumbled on an article posted by cheatsheet.com chronicling the five biggest NFL comeback wins of all time (the article will most certainly have to be re-witten given that two weeks ago we witnessed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history with the New England Patriots’ epic comeback over the  Atlanta Falcons…) Nonetheless, each story in the article was spectacular, yet none of the victorious teams miraculously improved in their ability… Their team roster didn’t change… But they all had one essential common ingredient: they never stopped hoping – believing, that they could – and would WIN!!!

Hope is also a key factor in the more serious arena of health. CNN featured a story in April of 2013 entitled, “How hope can help you heal.” In the feature they shared well-documented, positive physiological effects of “hope”. As the report stated, “Belief and expectation – the key elements of hope – can block pain and have effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation, motor function and the nervous system which sets off a chain reaction that makes improvement and recovery more likely. Hope also promotes healthy behaviors including fruit and vegetable consumption, regular exercise, quitting smoking and other daily habits that support health and prevent disease.” Hope, it was concluded, wields a significant enough influence on healing that it can be the difference between life …and death. They reported that this is in part because “Hopeful people conjure a vision that sustains them…” Clear and tangible validation of Proverbs 29:18 that states, “where there is no vision, the people perish”. Thus, hope is essential to life and to living!

There are however, two important factors as it relates to hope that we need to be mindful of. The first is that our hope should be in line with God’s will. James 4:3 informs us that sometimes we ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” I’m reminded of Mary approaching Jesus at the wedding when she came to him because they were out of wine and Jesus’ reply was, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?” (John 2:4) Well, Jesus fulfilled the request and in verse 11 it’s explained that it was “the beginning of signs Jesus did”; “and it manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him.” So in averting the wine crisis God’s purpose was fulfilled as well! We see the same pattern in 1 Kings 3 when Solomon asked for wisdom to fulfill his assignment as king and the Lord was so pleased with his petition that he not only gave him wisdom but also what he did not ask for – wealth (more than anyone in the world…) and honor! This principle is summarized in one of my favorite scriptures, Psalm 20:4 – “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.” God is mindful of our personal and intimate desires. He desires to give us good gifts, but His perfect will for us will not only satisfy our desires but it will fulfill His will and purpose in our lives as well! We can use this as a test to discern the true motives of the hopes and desires of our heart.

The second key is discerning the trust behind our hope. Sometimes our hope is dependent on amassing wealth, but investments can be lost. Sometimes it’s dependent on attaining a certain position, but positions can be taken. Sometimes it’s dependent on certain conditions or circumstances but they can change. Sometimes we’re dependent on possessions, but they will fade. Sometimes our hope is dependent on a man, but men will fail you… Sometimes our hope is dependent on someone gaining us access, but who needs the doorkeeper when Jesus IS THE DOOR!

This is not to say that God won’t send a man or use a person or that your plan won’t need money or possessions, but we need to understand and remain mindful that the person or resource is not the basis of our confidence! If your hope has been anchored to something temporal, unstable, people or things, it’s time to make a change! It’s time to resurrect hope! Hope breathes life to the lifeless. Hope restores joy to the sorrowful. Hope delivers promise to the forsaken. Hope gives purpose to the lost! Hope is life! Resurrect hope and tie it to the ROCK of Ages! Hope in God – He is eternal, He is life, He is unchanging. He will never leave or forsake you. He never fails! Hebrews 6:19 says that when we trust in Jesus, He is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”. The trust behind our hope can only be in JESUS! He is the only anchor for our hope that is Steadfast and Immoveable, Unchanging, Faithful and True!

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” Hebrews 6:19

 

 

The Yacht and the Sea

We are like beautiful yachts on the sea with the freedom and the ability to go wherever we choose. We can set our own course, travel at our own speed. Dock at the port of our choosing. We can load up provisions to sustain us. We can bring whomever we choose and we can do whatever we want on it or in it. Of course, we must follow the man-made rules of the sea and waters that we navigate but other than that we have tremendous autonomy and independence. We are our own man or woman. We are masters of our own destiny!

But we are greatly deceived, or worse yet, a fool, if we lack a reverent respect for the waters on which we sail. They keep us afloat. They enable us to go to and fro but they also have the ability to consume us, to destroy us, to detain us and to derail us from our destiny…

When we fire up the engine and set sail we feel that we are Captain of the sea! But it is merely an illusion. We have neither tamed nor conquered the sea. She has simply been gracious enough to allow us to ride on her back as a wild beast humbles himself for a time to allow us to do the same. We may only tame a horse willing to be broken and without his willingness he cannot be ridden. And thus it is so with the sea as well. When calm and undisturbed, we are enabled to do all that we please. We sail ungrateful for her yielding and without thought of her destructive power. We feel safe, confident and joyfully optimistic…

Ah, but what of when she no longer wishes to yield? And what of the wind that rouses her rage and stirs a tempest that roils beneath? What of currents and undertows? What of waves above and rocks below? The sea can certainly disturb our peace when she ceases to yield, when she ceases to subdue her might and power. Then suddenly we become aware that we are not in control, but the sea – and she was all along… Suddenly, we are aware of her awesomeness, of her strength, of her power. Suddenly, we are in awe, full of reverence and fear. Suddenly, we are humbled, begging for her mercy, fully aware of our frailties. Aware of the inadequacies of our equipment, tools and provisions. Aware of the short-comings of our education, experience, gifting and intelligence. Aware of the uselessness of our might as well as the might of our horsepower because no matter how great, they are insufficient to out power her in her strength. All that we have, all that we once boasted of, we now see is of no use against her power. We are humbled and though once chomping at the bit to be let loose to sail free, we now find ourselves longing for the safety of being tethered to the dock… Now, as she pushes us effortlessly, tosses us to and fro, rocks us with such force that we might capsize and slams us with unleashed rage against the tumultuous sea, we begin to see that it is only in her mercy that we may be spared shipwreck, being grounded on a sandbar, ripped to shreds by her rage, sunken underneath her power or lost at sea and left to drift in the wilderness, parched and withered, hungry and thirsty, scorched by the salt and sun. Abandoned and left to die a slow and painful death…

As the storms at sea give the sailor reverence and respect for the water, so should the storms of life give us reverence and respect for the God of the Universe. The Maker of the Heavens above and the earth below. He spoke into existence the sun and sea and every living creature within it. He spoke the word and all things were created through Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (John 1:1-5).  He is the Living Water! Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, Jesus is truly Lord of all! He is the sea on which we journey! He is the wind behind the canvass of our sails! And He is the anchor of our soul! (Hebrews 6:19) Only He can calm the raging sea and quiet the tempestuous storms of life! But He made us free will beings. So after the storm, by our will we can return to navigating our own ship or learn from the realities that the storm brought us to and allow Him to navigate us through still waters and set sail to see “great and mighty things we do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). The storms of life should be treasured for drawing us near to God and they should leave us with a new reality about life and living, “for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) The storms of life should bring a new realization of our frailties, of the uselessness of earthly treasures, of the value of life and of the sovereignty of the Lord. In Psalm 119:17 David said, “Our suffering was good for us for it taught us to pay attention to Your decrees.”
May the storms, afflictions, suffering and trials of life leave you with a never-ending, deep and abiding reverence for His awesome power and a heart full of gratitude for His mercy and unending love!

Don’t Forget Your Passport!

by Kimberly D. Williamson in Daily Devotional, Devotions, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Imagine a contest that would grant you an all expense paid trip to every major city in the world… All you have to do is collect one million bottle caps and be ready to leave on the date the ship sails.  Imagine being packed, ready to go and collecting the last few bottle caps in the terminal on your way to the dock… Then getting turned away because you forgot your passport! The agony, the disappointment and the realization that all of your work has been in vain would be enough to send many people over the edge! Now imagine that same scenario being played out for eternity with the loss of your very soul!  (“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Matt 16:26) Salvation is our passport to Heaven! Good deeds can’t get us in.  Going to church can’t get us in. Our own righteousness can’t get us in.  Only the blood of Jesus can get you into Heaven!  Jesus’ Blood is enough!  But then we must to do our part – stay on the narrow path (Matt 7:13-14) and endure to the end! (Matt 10:22). The Apostle Paul himself said “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27). Disqualified? My works not remembered? (Ezek 33:13) My name blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life? (Rev 3:5) Rejected at the gate of Heaven? (Matt 7:21-23) No wonder Paul said that we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling! (Phil 2:12) “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev 3:11We must do a personal inventory day-by-day and never think that we are too strong to fall.  “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).  If the path is narrow then we should take heed to stay on it! Otherwise our labor, whether it be a million souls or a million hours of community service or a million dollars to charity will be as worthless as those million bottle caps – and no passport!  Fight the good fight of faith!  Kimberly

Scripture of the Day – “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Emmanuel – God With Us

Not long ago I encouraged someone with the words, “God be with you!”  Then a still small voice corrected me, “God IS with you…”  Wow!  The truth is, God is ALWAYS with us.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  God is Omnipresent, that means He is everywhere, always present.  And He has always made provision to dwell with us.  In the Old Testament He dwelled with His people and His presence resided deep within the Tabernacle of Moses, in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, between the cherubim on top of the mercy-seat.  Then He walked with us in the form of a man named Jesus, our Savior, the Christ, the Anointed One.  And when He left, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell IN us.  We are truly never alone.  The challenge is to remember and be aware every day, every hour, every minute, that He IS with us.  Jesus, walking beside me and the Power of the Holy Spirit dwelling IN me.  The challenge is to practice His presence.  To train our mind and heart to recognize and depend of the help of the Lord in even the smallest things that we do all day, throughout the day.  No doubt such a practice would yield amazing results! And indeed it has (you would be blessed to read the writings of Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach in Practicing His Presence).  That is what Jesus did.  It is a challenge to follow!  There are so many distractions, but to sense His presence – even in the midst of conversation and daily activities is where we should strive to be.  So often we set aside time in the morning to commune with God, and then leave Him in the prayer closet until the next morning!  Of course we didn’t really leave him there, we just didn’t acknowledge the fact that He left the closet with us! And therein lies the problem.  For God is with us, but how much we depend on Him throughout the day will determine whether or not He is for us!  I need God for me!  Because, if God be for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31).    Remember that God IS with us! Just listen for His voice and follow His direction.  He’ll never leave or forsake you! (Deut 31:6-8; Heb 13:5) You can stake your life on it!  Be encouraged.  Kimberly

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6               

Today’s Reading:  1 Chronicles 2; Psalm 1; Matthew 2-3

 

 

Be Careful What You Pray For…

When I prayed for patience, God made me wait.  When I prayed for wisdom, I was faced with dilemma.  Then I prayed for compassion and got offended.  When I prayed for boldness, I landed in the midst of conflict.  I prayed for courage and came face-to-face with fear!  When I prayed for direction, God brought me to the wilderness.   I prayed for brokenness and was utterly humiliated…  When I prayed for faith, He just stopped talking.  Now, as I pray not to lean on my own understanding, (Proverbs 3:5-6) I have learned that I am an utter failure without Him…  God’s ways are higher than our ways.  His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 ).  He teaches us by placing us in situations where the thing we need to learn is the very thing required!  And there we learn to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! (Revelation 12:11) Forward boldly go! We must pass the test or we take it again… Trust God.  You can do it.  His grace is sufficient! (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Be encouraged.  Kimberly

Guard Your Strength

I’ve been in some deep “valleys” that looked impossible to get out of.  I’ve been knocked down so hard that it seemed I would never get up.  And I’ve been crushed to a point that looked beyond repair…  But I held onto my faith.  I had faith that God would deliver me; restore me; and sustain me in the valley.  I learned a lot in the valley, but most importantly, I learned to guard my strength.  Here’s a quick rule of thumb: the bigger your outer circle grows, the smaller your inner circle must shrink.  That was a hard lesson to learn for someone who once hated to be alone.  But I found that in order to keep my faith strong, I had to limit who I shared my dreams, goals and desires with – because people will crush them.  They don’t do it intentionally or maliciously, but they will do it.  They’ll zap your strength and kill your hope.  They do it with advice and opinions.  They do it with “what if” scenarios.  They do it by playing “devil’s advocate” and injecting their fears into your dreams…   Jesus knew this well.  “Who touched Me?” Are the words He asked when the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment.  The scriptures says, “Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” (Luke 8:40-48) Jesus guarded His strength.  He didn’t avoid the crowds nor did he refuse to allow His power to go out from Him, but He was fully aware of when it was expended, and where it was expended.  That’s why He permitted no one to go into the house where the girl had just died except Peter, James and John and the girl’s parents.  The scripture says that He put everyone else outside (Luke 8:49-56).  He knew they would crush the spirit of faith.  Peter followed in His footsteps by putting everyone out before He prayed for Dorcas to be brought back to life (Acts 9:40-41).  So the question today is simple: Who is in your inner circle?  Faith builders…or fault finders? To walk in the faith to fulfill your destiny you just might need to shut some people out… Be encouraged.  Kimberly

Scripture of the Day – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  Luke 9:23-24

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